Immigration Enforcement Review Board officially dissolvedCity Attorney Bryan Downs presented evidence during the May 15, 2018 Immigration Enforcement Review Board Hearing which was attended by several city officials, including Mayor Patti Garrett (left) and Police Chief Mike Booker (right). Photo by Mariann Martin
The Immigration Enforcement Review Board, a little noticed state board that handled complaints about illegal immigration, has been officially eliminated.
A spokesperson for Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says the governor signed House Bill 553, though the bill was not immediately listed as signed legislation on the governor’s website. The bill becomes law by default as of this morning if the governor hasn’t vetoed it, his spokesperson said.
The state Legislature’s decision to quietly eliminate the IERB was first reported by Decaturish. The language was tucked into House Bill 553, which ostensibly dealt with the State Victim Services Commission.
But the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said the House’s Code Revision Committee added language pertaining to the IERB that dissolves the board. The provision flew so low under the radar that even one of the bill’s cosponsors, state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, was not aware of it at the time.
The board itself was not well known to the general public and functioned primarily as a way to handle complaints filed by The Dustin Inman Society, a hardline anti-illegal-immigration group. The Dustin Inman Society’s founder wasn’t a fan of the IERB and cheered when he heard about the legislation getting rid of it.
The board quickly fell under the spotlight when Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle attempted to boost his bid to become Georgia’s next governor by filing a complaint against the city of Decatur with the board. Cagle, who ultimately lost the Republican primary to Kemp, accused the city of Decatur of being a Sanctuary City, harboring people suspected of being in the country illegally and refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The city said it does not detain immigrants without a valid warrant from ICE and never has. Decatur doesn’t have a jail. What the city did do was put a longstanding policy in writing regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The city of Decatur fought back.
Decatur filed lawsuits challenging the board’s compliance with state transparency laws and questioning the legitimacy of board members who had overstayed their terms, prompting two members of the board to resign.
The case, which had dragged on since November 2017, was quietly resolved on Jan. 8. The IERB settled both lawsuits filed by the city by agreeing to improve its compliance with state Open Records and Open Meetings laws. In exchange, Decatur removed a provision from its policy regarding ICE cooperation that said officers would face disciplinary action if they violated the policy. City Attorney Bryan Downs said that line was unnecessary because officers who violate any policy already are subject to disciplinary action.
The settlement also declares a May 19 preliminary ruling issued on Cagle’s behalf “null and void.”
The IERB agreed to pay the city $12,000 in attorney’s fees. The now-defunct board definitively ruled that Decatur’s policy does not violate the state’s “Sanctuary Policy” statute.